Kingdom Hearts is one of the most popular video game franchises out there for many reasons. It’s a collaboration between Disney and Square Enix, it’s a fun action RPG that’s stayed relatively consistent in quality, and it has a decade-long storyline that only gets more complicated with every installment. Really, there’s a lot to love about this series.
Perhaps its most lovable feature is Sora, the ever-smiling Keyblade wielder who stole all our hearts in 2002. He’s a sincere, kind-hearted young man who really only wants to protect his friends, but he has a weird amount of history behind him. Not just from a development angle, but in canon too.
Sora comes off like a generic JRPG protagonist, but his role in the series, and how he’s used, makes him stand out from his contemporaries. He’s perhaps the most important character in the whole Kingdom Hearts universe while also being active in less than half the main games.
It’s hard to imagine Kingdom Hearts without Sora, and with Kingdom Hearts III a year away, it seems like a good enough time to look back on our lovable hero and examine what exactly made him unique. He’s dorky, he’s fun, he’s weirdly ruthless: He’s Sora.
15 Sora Canonically Picked The Dream Sword
At the beginning of the original Kingdom Hearts, players have the option of choosing between three starter weapons: the Dream Sword, the Dream Shield, and the Dream Rod. Each weapon correlates with which stat will be Sora’s best throughout the game. Sword increases his strength, shield his defense, and rod his magic. While it’s a choice that’s left entirely up to the player and never referenced in the game again, the series has made a point to show that Sora canonically picked the Dream Sword.
The first piece of evidence is Sora’s appearance in 358/2 Days where he can use the Dream Sword in multiplayer. The second and more substantial piece of evidence is in 3D where Sora is explicitly shown using the Dream Sword in a memory. Why did Square Enix feel the need to clear this up?
14 Sora Was Never Meant To Have The Keyblade
Going back to the whole Terra-Riku Keyblade shenanigan, it makes sense that Sora wasn’t meant to have a Keyblade EVER. The only reason he even got the Keyblade in the first place was because of Ventus’ heart.
It’s kind of sad, really. Fans know Sora as the Keyblade wielder so to find out he’s just a fluke adds a new element to his character. His life, his adventures, and his friends were all given to him by pure chance. Maybe they’ll reconcile some of these ideas in III, maybe not, but it’s a layer that gives Sora’s character some much-needed depth.
13 Sora Is Simultaneously The Strongest And Weakest Keyblade Wielder
Sora. He’s the same character who can slice buildings in half while also failing his Keyblade Mastery Exam. He’s saved the world countless times, but he’s also in constant need of bailing out. He can handle the toughest foes his universe has to offer one on one, but he can’t hold onto a single set of skills for longer than one game. Really, that’s what it comes down to.
For as strong as Sora is, he cannot manage his power for the life of him. Sora, at the end of Kingdom Hearts II, is an absolute beast, but it’s more than likely he’ll be relatively weak at the start of III. It’s pretty obvious he’ll get that strong again, but it’s also a bit of a bummer that he can’t stay strong. He’s the strongest weakest man alive.
12 There Are Currently At Least Three People Inside Of Sora
Sora’s role in the series is complicated. Nomura wants him to be the main character but he also doesn’t want him in every game, so what’s he to do? Jam a bunch of relevant characters inside of Sora, of course. In an attempt to keep him relevant, Nomura has turned Sora into the world’s greatest plot taxi.
Roxas, Sora’s Nobody and counterpart, is currently hanging out inside of him. Xion, a weird hybrid Nobody who’s simultaneously Sora but also not is also inside of him (even though she doesn’t exist, maybe.) And Ventus, one of the main characters from Birth by Sleep is peacefully waiting for his return inside of Sora. By having everyone just hang out inside of Sora, Nomura can act like he’s important, even in games where he clearly is not.
11 Sora Uses Terra’s Keyblade
During Birth by Sleep, one of the main characters, Terra, performs a Keyblade Inheritance Ceremony with Riku. In doing so, Riku becomes the successor to Terra’s Keyblade and will eventually take up his mantle as a Keyblade wielder when the time comes. Unfortunately for Riku, he succumbs to darkness before he ever gets a chance and Sora happens to be at the right place, at the right time.
Right from the first game, it’s no surprise that Sora was only chosen to wield the Keyblade because Riku couldn’t, but does change the canon significantly with the revelation that Sora has been using Terra’s Keyblade the whole time, thus making him his successor. Given that III will be the end of the Xehanort saga and Terra is currently a part of Xehanort, it’s likely we’ll get some added drama thanks to Sora and his Terra-connection.
10 Sora’s Stats Favor Magic Based Playstyles
Even though Sora chose the Dream Sword in Kingdom Hearts, everything in the series points to him being an adept magic user. He gains the most stat benefits in the original game by picking the Dream Rod, actually suffers the least drawbacks by rejecting the Dream Sword, and Dream Drop Distance makes him more of a mage compared to Riku’s traditional warrior skill set.
It makes sense if you think about it; Sora’s clearly a prodigy in the series, and he’s able to pick up magic by just watching Donald in the original game. While it seems like the staff viewed him as a typical JRPG fighter protagonist, the narrative lends more credence to Sora being more mage-centric. It can be said that this makes his choice of the Dream Sword weird in the first game but, in a way, it emphasizes his rivalry with Riku and parallels how they both seek power in ways that don’t exactly benefit them.
Or maybe it’s just an oversight.
9 Sora Wasn’t Intended To Be The Main Character
Believe it or not, the original Kingdom Hearts pitch didn’t even feature Sora. Before development even began, Disney and Square Enix had very different ideas for who would lead the franchise. Disney felt Donald Duck was a more appropriate protagonist while Square Enix was intent on making Mickey Mouse the main character. Series director Tetsuya Nomura, however, hated both ideas and decided to create his own character to take up the mantle of hero.
As a result of Sora’s inclusion in the game, Mickey Mouse’s role was severely reduced to a background character, albeit an important one, who only appears in one scene while Donald fared a bit better as a member of Sora’s immediate party. While it certainly would have been fun to see Mickey and Donald wield the Keyblade full-time, it’s hard to imagine the series without Sora’s goofy face lighting the way.
8 Sora Is The Protagonist In Only Three Games
Nomura insists that Sora is the main character of the series, but he certainly doesn’t treat him as such. Out of all the main games, Sora is only the main character in a measly three. He’s the sole protagonist in the first game, and is the central character in Chain of Memories and KHII even though he shares the narrative spotlight with Riku and Roxas respectively in those games. For the rest of the series, however? Sora’s not the key player.
Roxas is the main character in Days, and a data version of Sora is the lead in Coded. Meanwhile, Birth by Sleep has three protagonists (none of them Sora), and Dream Drop Distance does an inversion of Chain of Memories with Riku taking the spotlight and Sora acting as a background player (although still playable). Kingdom Hearts III will mark the first time Sora was the main character of a KH game in over ten years. As long as Nomura doesn’t pull the rug out from under him, that is.
7 Sora Has Never Kept His Abilities For More Than One Game At A Time
Poor Sora, he really can’t catch a break, can he? It’s not typical for a JRPG protagonist to be deleveled and lose his equipment in between games, but Kingdom Hearts goes above and beyond to make sure Sora’s going to start every single one of his adventures as a blank slate. He’s abilityless in the first game (for obvious reasons), but his lack of power becomes a recurring theme as the games progress.
Chain of Memories forces him to use cards to survive, rendering all his previous abilities null. II has him waking up from a year-long stasis, rusty and out of practice. Dream Drop Distance has him stuck in a dream where he can’t rely on his physical body, and III takes place after the fact where Sora’s had all his powers sapped because of the events of 3D. Needless to say, don’t get attached to Sora’s powers in III.
6 Sora Is The Only Character To Have An Upbeat Leitmotif
Given that Kingdom Hearts is technically a Disney property and tries to tonally fit in with Disney’s canon of films, most of the songs featured in the series have an upbeat mood to them. Except for the character's leitmotifs. Almost every single character has a somber theme that hammers in just how sad this cast is. Roxas’ theme, in particular, is incredibly depressing and bitter, fully capturing his character’s tragic story. It makes sense for the cast to have some quiet and moody tunes, but Sora’s is a total outlier.
Sora’s leitmotif screams “adventure.” It’s an exciting and fun track that captures that feeling of exploration Kingdom Hearts does so well. It also speaks volumes to Sora’s character. In a cast full of dark, moody teens, Sora is the only one who stays positive through it all. He embodies the light Kingdom Hearts is all about.
5 Sora Is Incredibly Cocky In The Manga
Sora’s plenty arrogant in the first Kingdom Hearts, but he does eventually grow out of it. In the manga adaptation, however, not only is his arrogance played up in the first game’s adaptation, but he’s also just generally cockier throughout the whole series. He’s more than cocky, really, Manga Sora is actually sort of a jerk.
Sora in the manga is proud to a fault. He’s a sore loser, he berates Donald and Goofy for getting capturing by Heartless, and generally acts annoyed in the face of weak enemies. It’s actually kind of refreshing. It’s not that Sora’s canon personality is bad, it works great for the games, but Manga Sora is so vitriolic and bizarre that it’s hard not to appreciate this immature and rude variant.
4 Sora Is Technically A Heartless
In the climax of the first Kingdom Hearts, Sora gives his life to save Kairi’s heart and ends up turning into a Shadow. It’s a neat sequence where you roam Hollow Bastion as one the weakest and most common enemy you’ve been killing all game. Naturally, Sora eventually gets his body back so the series can continue with a human protagonist. Once Sora became a Heartless, Roxas was born and, for as long as Roxas was around, Sora was technically a Heartless.
It’s debatable whether he still is in-canon, but the fact that he can actually tap into his Heartless power in II lends some credence to the idea that Sora’s not fully human. And really, how could he be? He gave his heart to Kairi and was roaming around in a body while his Nobody was still active. It’s confusing, but what about Kingdom Hearts isn’t?
3 Sora Is The Only Character Who Understands Nobodies
One of Kingdom Hearts’ recurring elements is the scientific outlook characters give to hearts and souls. From the very first game, players can read through Ansem’s Reports to learn about light, darkness, and hearts. It’s a very cold outlook that takes all the emotion out of the very concept of “heart,” but it’s a necessary one. While characters are researching these immaterial ideas, Sora is able to fully understand them through pure feeling.
Nobodies get them worse than anyone else. They’re told they have no hearts, the reports support this fact, but Sora believes, or rather knows, that Nobodies can’t be entirely heartless. He’s far from the smartest character in the series, but his feelings define who he is and he’s able to understand, not just Nobodies but, people better than anyone else.
2 Sora Was Half-Lion At One Point In Development
Speaking of weird setbacks during development, Sora’s entire design had to be overhauled at one point. His original concept art shows him as a human-lion hybrid with too many belts and zippers for his own good. He also originally had a full blown chainsaw instead of a Keyblade. Naturally, Disney wasn’t too keen on the whole chainsaw idea and forced Nomura to redesign it into the series’ iconic weapon.
On the lion end of things, the staff found that Sora’s appearance was far too similar to Zidane Tribal’s from Final Fantasy IX and made Nomura change his design to his original appearance in the first game. While these changes were certainly for the better, it’s funny to imagine a universe where Kingdom Hearts is about a half-lion boy running around mowing down Disney villains with a chainsaw.
1 Sora Has An Extraordinarily High Kill Count
Sora is a kindhearted young man who loves his friends and fights for what’s right. He’s also a monster who’s slaughtered thousands in-canon. Just looking at the 1000 Heartless battle in Hollow Bastion, that’s 1000 confirmed kills. This isn’t including all the Organization XIII members he killed either — or any of the random enemies he’s defeated during regular gameplay.
Usually, JRPGs will gloss over protagonist's death-toll by just not addressing it, but Sora actually kills during his story. Sure, Heartless don’t have hearts, but Sora is technically fighting to the death when he’s dueling the very human and very alive members of Organization XIII. With Kingdom Hearts III wrapping up the Xehanort saga, and over ten years of canon, we can only imagine how many more will fall by Sora’s key before the story ends.